Mary Magdalene, or Mary of Magdala, is said to be the second most important woman in the New Testament, after Jesus’s mother Mary of course . Mary was said to be present at Jesus crucifixion and resurrection and her name appears some 12 times within the four gospels no doubt confirming her importance.
Mary Magdalene was said to be from Magdala although there is no direct reference of this in the bible. Jesus had expelled seven demons from her and she was a loyal follower of his. The Catholic, Orthidox, Lutheran and Anglican churches all view Mary as a saint and she is commemorated by Eastern Orthodox churches.
Among the positive references to Mary there is a belief that she was a prostitute of even possibly a lover or wife of Jesus. Western Christianity agrees that these accusations are unfounded and that the “harlot” reference is merely a case of mistaken identity. Luke 7:36 to 50 refers to an unnamed sinner who anoints Jesus feet with perfumed oil. This unnamed sinner stands accused of being a loose women and it is here that Mary Magdalene’s identity becomes confused.
The idea that Mary was a sinner can be traced back as far as the fourth century but Western Christianity rejects this thinking. Furthermore, what supports this are the many references to Mary in the four gospels and no mention of her being loose in conduct or a harlot for that matter.
Modern religious literature at times depicts Mary Magdalene as being partially clothed and her story has become influenced by the story of St. Mary of Egypt. St Mary of Egypt was a prostitute that later repented and began to live life as a hermit.
Gothic crucifixions paint the picture of Mary as having long blonde hair. She is usually dressed in a red dress and at times shown to having partially falling off. One scholar notes that all respectable women of the time would have kept their hair tied back and covered and only prostitutes would have loosed their hair in public.
In another legend about Mary Magdalene, she is said to have lived in a desert cave for thirty years communicating only with angels. Still more bizarre is another legend about her living in a castle in Magdala and after moving to Rome she drinks pearls and dines on peacock tongues.
Another interesting “confusion” is the idea that Jesus having expelled seven demons from Mary is a reference to her being cured of a mental or physical illness.
At the time of Jesus death, Mary Magdalene is said to have witnessed his crucifixion and is specifically named as the first witness present at the time of his resurrection.
In the Gospel of Mark, Mary Magdalene is consistently listed first in a group of women indicating her level of importance. With this in mind it can be argued that Mary must have held a central position among Jesus followers.
From the book of Acts there is no further mention of Mary and we are left with very little information of what happened to her later on.